The Bush Administration has been eager to expand offshore oil drilling for a while now. And according to today's LA Times, they've found the perfect pretext in Hurricane Katrina:

Citing hurricane damage to the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, key lawmakers are trying to relax a decades-old federal ban on new drilling off California and the Atlantic Seaboard and to encourage energy prospecting in the Rocky Mountains [...]

The legislation, likely to be voted on soon in the House, comes as oil- and natural-gas-dependent manufacturers have urged Congress to reopen the "85% of all federally controlled coastal waters [that] are currently off-limits to energy production."

For years there has been a bi-partisan consensus to oppose drilling by lawmakers in coastal states, wary of the threat to critical tourism dollars. But under White House pressure, that coalition is waivering, led by Florida Republicans:

"If, all of a sudden, the Florida delegation drops out of the equation, it makes the rest of the country much more vulnerable," said Lisa Speer, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The coastal states that don't want to see [outer continental shelf] development really need to hang together, or they're going to hang separately."